January 30, 2017
Activities /
Posted by NCID

Fighting extreme poverty requires giving tools to locals so they can combat poverty from within their own contexts. The Navarra Center for International Development (NCID) understands this and believes that educating the next generation of African economists will be key in achieving that. For this reason, members of its team have traveled to Benin to contribute to building the capacities of future local researchers.

This collaboration has been possible thanks to local partners, such as the African School of Economics (ASE), founded by Leonard Wantchekon, a Benin native once incarcerated for pro-democracy activism and current professor at Princeton University. This relationship has been formalized with the signing of a ā€˜Memorandum of Understandingā€™ between the ASE and NCID (ICS), in which both parties agree to collaborate in research and capacity building initiatives.

One of the priorities of the African School of Economics is to foster a new generation of African economists capable of tackling the challenges that the continent is facing. In order to do so, they invite international experts from prestigious universities, including Yale and Princeton, with the goal of achieving a level academic excellence comparable to that of the worldā€™s best universities. The NCID is one of its partners. ā€œProfessors give very intense classes, lasting one or two weeks, about 40 hours. That way, they can teach an entire courseā€, says Robert Mudida, professor from Strathmore University (Kenya) and non-resident fellow of the NCID.

ā€œThis system gives students from the ASE access to the best professors worldwide, exposing them to the best micro, macro and econometric analysis tools, while centering in Africaā€™s problemsā€, he explains. Mudida attended, along with Luis Alberiko Gil AlaƱa, resident fellow at the NCID,  the Annual Summer Institute for Economic Research, organized by the ASE. They both gave classes there for 7 days, and presented their paper ā€˜Fractional lntegration in the West African Economic and Monetary Unionā€™.

According to both researchers, they had the opportunity to see the ASEā€™s master and PhD studentsā€™ work, which they valued very positively. ā€œMost of the projects were about development economics. Some of them had even completed randomized control trials to evaluate the impact of diverse policies -says Mudida-. This is very useful for Africa, in order to know which policies work best in different countriesā€.

Africaā€™s economy for Africans

ā€œWhen you travel to Kenya or Rwanda, quality of life downgrades several levels comparing it with Europe, but travelling to Benin is like reducing that quality 5 more levelsā€, affirms Luis Alberiko, who trusts in students to improve this situation. For him, the fact that they are studying in Benin will be very positive for the country and for others in western Africa, where he predicts they will work.

ā€œSince they are studying in an African country, they are very close to African problems; this gives them the possibility to do very relevant research for the continentā€, explains Mudida, who supports the implementation of this system throughout Africa.

He believes that in order to complement the work of the ASE in Western Africa, another center should be created in the East, and one more in the South, apart from "promoting collaboration between the universities in this system, to efficiently use both human and monetary resourcesā€¦ā€.

According to both Mudida and Alberiko, the circle is completed, precisely, when these professionals go back to their home countries to form new economists, while they maintain the collaboration with the rest of institutions.

Capacity Building in Pamplona

The NCID is strengthening its relationship with these countries and institutions. With this in mind, Luis Alberiko explained how ā€œtalented professionals could come to the campus in Pamplona in order to undertake part of their PhD in development economics.ā€

In this regard, the NCID fellow -whose research is centered on macroeconomic stability of Sub-Saharan Africa- has begun advising the research of several master students from the ASE, especially in topics such as ā€œeconomic and monetary integration in western Africa -Mali, Togo, Benin, Nigeria- or in countries with similar languages, in order to ensure the macroeconomic stability of this regionā€.